The ex-wife of Gary Coleman filed a petition on Thursday in a Utah court to be appointed as the special administrator of the former child actor's estate.
The petition filed in 4th District Court in Provo said even though Coleman and Shannon Price were divorced in August 2008, she is still his common law wife and that she should be the one to make funeral arrangements. It wasn't publicly known that the two were divorced until after his death. The divorce papers were sealed in Utah courts.
Price referred to Coleman as her husband when she called 911 on May 26, saying the actor had fallen and was bleeding severely from the back of his head.
Coleman died May 28 after suffering a brain hemorrhage and his last-known will names friend and former manager Dion Mial as his estate's executor.
Coleman said in the 1999 will that he wanted to be remembered in a wake conducted by people who had no financial ties to the star of the sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes."
However, documents filed by Price's attorneys say they have an unsigned will drawn up in 2005 that names Price as the conservator of his estate.
Among the exhibits attached to Price's affidavit is a 2007 handwritten note with Coleman's signature that's intended to amend any earlier wills naming Price as the sole heir of his earnings, home, toy trains and other property.
"I made this change of free will and was not coerced in any way," says the note dated Sept. 4, 2007, less than a month after Coleman and Price married. "This I have done because of my personal selfishness and my weakness and I love her with all my heart."
Coleman met Price in 2005 on the set of the movie "Church Ball."
The documents said Price and Coleman lived together at his Santaquin home about 65 miles south of Salt Lake City until his death, maintained joint bank accounts and had sexual relations.
The couple "assumed all marital rights, duties and obligations consistent with a marital relationship after the decree was entered," including filing taxes as a married couple.
A message left after hours for Price's attorneys, Todd Bradford and Mitchell Maughan, was not immediately returned.
Kent Alderman, Mial's attorney, said he had not read Price's filing, which seeks to block Mial from making any burial or financial decisions related to the estate.
He called the argument that Price is still Coleman's common law wife "an interesting theory."
"I just don't know how a court would find on that question," he said.
"There is a hearing scheduled for next Monday, but because of the factual intensity of the allegations, I would think you're going to have to have a full trial and have witnesses testify."
Coleman was still conscious when he was taken to a hospital in Provo, but slipped into unconsciousness the next day and was placed on life support. It was Price — named in an advanced health care directive — who ordered that he be taken off it.
Coleman starred for eight seasons on the sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes," starting in 1978. The tiny 10-year-old's "Whachu talkin' 'bout?" became a catch phrase in the show about two African-American brothers adopted by a wealthy white man. He played Arnold Jackson, the younger of the two brothers.